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Inside the Artist's Studio: Melissa Murray in Bushwick
And you only work on one drawing at a time?
Yeah. I find it really difficult to work on more than one because I like to put everything into it. And sometimes I'll be working on a drawing and start thinking about a new drawing and end up combining the two of them.
Do you ever come back to a work and alter it?
Very rarely. When it's done I just feel like it's done, like it exists on its own and I can't get back into it.
Your work is influenced by psychoanalysis and the idea that animals symbolize the instincts and impulses that we as humans tend to suppress; what made you decide to pursue these themes in your work?
I'm interested in symbolism and psychoanalysis because it's a way for me personally to accept things and to move through difficult situations. But, to take it a step further, I like to try to recreate dreams. I'm really interested in understanding, documenting dreams and creating a space that could perhaps exist in a dream and not necessarily something that your physical body could walk into. That's why lines don't meet up, or the sky doesn't continue, or the ceiling doesn't continue. It's a space that's ever changing. I like that idea of time moving in a single image. Like how you move through a dream and sometimes end up somewhere without knowing how you got there. I like to do that with a line.
Some of your earlier drawings feature human figures; was there a specific point in your development when you decided to shift towards animals?
Well I was trained as a figurative painter and was very interested in figurative painting, but it got to a point where it was too familiar and as the viewer you relate it too much to your life. We know too much about them. I find a broader metaphor by not using humans. But I still really like and hold onto the training that I have in the manipulation of volume and creating flesh or skin.
The animals you draw are at once very beautifully and exhaustively rendered, and also somewhat scary; is that a reaction you're trying to elicit or does it just happen because of the animals you choose?
I'm absolutely interested in that conflict and contrast. I feel like it's a good representation of life; in order to know what it is to be happy you need to know what it is to suffer. In life there's always that contradiction, so I like putting that in my work, to recreate that. I look at the animals as emotions or situations.
Are there any artworks, artists or exhibitions that have played a really crucial role in your development?
When I first started painting I was really into figurative painting and I love artists who can create skin and flesh and make that the content of the painting, like Jenny Saville or Lucian Freud will just have this massive volume of skin. And I'm still inspired by their work. I really like artists who have a strong narrative sense with kind of dark undertones like Walton Ford or Dana Schutz, these artists who tell a story in a single image.